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Eating Gluten Free (Part 1 of 3)

Eating gluten free is much easier to day than it has ever been!  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to list the eight common allergens on all labels. 

What are the eight allergens? Wheat, Milk, Egg, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish.

What foods are labeled? Any domestic or imported packaged food regulated by the FDA is required to have a label. 

What allergen information is to be on the label? The label will list the type of allergen and any ingredients used that contain a protein from any of the eight allergens. 

You must remember, though, even if a product is Wheat Free it is not necessarily Gluten Free. Still read the label for other gluten ingredients such as rye, barley, malt.

What is gluten free and safe to eat? Fresh, non-processed vegetables, fruit, meats and seafoods.  Gluten free flours including, but not limited to: white rice, brown rice, amaranth, arrowroot, bean, buckwheat, coconut, corn, cornmeal, cornstarch, flax, millet, nuts, popcorn, potato starch, potato flour, quinoa, sweet rice, rice bran, seame, sorghum, soy, sweet potato, taro and teff.

Flours to avoid include: barley, bulgar, couscous, durum, emmer, faro, graham, kamut, malt, oats*, rye, spelt, triticale, wheat, wheat bran, wheat starch, wheat gluten.

Sources that may contain 'hidden' gluten, remember to always read the labels! ... sour cream, chocolate milk, mixed/prepared drinks, non-dairy creamers, procesed cheese and cheese products, yogurt, meat patties, canned meat, sausages, deli-meats, hot dogs, stews, chilis, omelets, souffles, fondue, prepared rice mixes, ready to eat cereals, salad dressings, mayonnaise, pie filings, custards, ice creams, candies, chewing gum, sauces, potato chips, flavorings, syrups, seasoning mixes, medications - over the counter and prescription.

Items of controversy over the years include things like alcohol and vanilla.  Both alcohol and vanilla are safe to use provided there are no 'flavorings' added to them (then they'd be disclosed on the label as being wheat, if so).  The distillation process removes the gluten from alcohols and vanilla if a gluten grain is used.  Modified food starch is safe, unless marked so on the label.  Remember - the FDA requries disclosure of the eight major allergens.

When reading labels, even on a gluten free items, you may come across a statement such as ... Made in a facility tht processes wheat"  ... or ... "Processed in a facility that processes wheat" - these disclaimers are letting you know the product may be gluten free, but there could have been contaminants in the air during processing and/or the possibility of cross contamination could have happened along the way.  These statements/disclosures are to keep the manufacturer safe and the consumer alert.  It is up to each consumer to dertermine on their own whether or not to eat such product.

 * Oats - why are they included in the not safe list?  Oats are in the avoid catagory due to cross conatmination issues.  Pure oats are safe for most gluten free diets, however, the questions as to which can or cannot eat them is yet to be answered.  There are reliable companies that have dedicated oat fields, harvesting equipment and processing facilities that offer products completely gluten free ... try Bob's Red Mill quick or steel cut oats.

 Happy and Safe Eating!


Eating Gluten Free (Part 2 of 3)

Where to get Gluten Free Items - where should one shop - is it safe to dine out?

In today's market you can shop at just about whatever store you like.  Our local grocers, such as Buehler's do a great job at keeping up with demand on gluten free items; Box Stores such as Wal-Mart also carry gluten free; Health and Nutrition stores cary many items that suit the gluten free diet; you local Co-Op Stores, including Local Roots carry Gluten Free products including those producted and/or grown locallyl; larger specialty stores such as Raisin Rack (Canton), Mustard Seed Market (Fairlawn), Comfrey Corner (Mansfield) offer large selections of gluten free products.

Always be on the lookout for new products onteh shelves at your favorite locations (which may or may not be listed here due to space), and never be afraid to ask your local store to stock something for you - most stores are willing to do this and/or order specifically for you.  Even if you need to puchase the entire case of the product, it could save you money and time in the end.

It is important to be sure yur diet is completely gluten free, but it's very important to keep ti nutritionally balanced and enriched.  Be sure you're getting a variety of grains and fiber - this can be completed by supplementing sorghum, buckwheat, teff, millet, quinoa into your baked cooks; nuts, seeds, dried fruit, vegetable juices, fruit juices, sliced/diced/pureed fresh fruits/vegetables, beans, alternate fats, etc. for additional flavoring, sugar reduction and/or protein enhancements. Think outside the box, add a touch of this or that to boost recipes and add texture along with flavor.

Need time out of the kitchen?  Eating out can be a challenge, however, many restaturants are serving gluten free and know the importance of no contamination.  Take time to visit the internet and preview a menu from the restaurant you plant to visit.  Call the restaurant ahead of time and to ask what is available and how to order it. Be sure not to call during a rush hour time.  When arriving, talk to your server, tell them of your previous conversation and/or internet findings and be sure to be patient while educating them if they are not familiar with gluten free!

Education is the key - the more we educate our family, friends, and community, the better Celiac Disease and gluten free living will be understood and the easier it will be to eat freely!  It does take a little time to do this over and over again as you visit different locations for meals, but be patient and be clear as you're paving the way or the next person and protecting your health!

Happy & Safe Eating!


Eating Gluten Free (Part 3 of 3)

The Challenges ...

To eat gluten free can be a challenge, but it can also be very rewarding and nutritious! Start with the basics; non-processed fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood.

Know your safe flours and grains ....... amaranth, arrowroot, bean, buckwheat, coconut, corn, flax, millett, nut, popcorn, potato starch & flour, quinoa, brown rice, white rice, rice bran, saffron, sesame, sorghum, soy, sweet potato, taro, tapiocan and teff.

Always read the label to watch for hidden glutens and/or ingredient changes. Possible products or hidden gluten are, but not limited to: sour cream, processed/shredded cheeses, chocolate milk, mixed/prepared drinks, non-dairy creamers, yogurt, meat patties, canned meat, sausages, deli-meats, hot dogs, stews, chili, omelets, souffles, foundue, prepackaged rice or potatoes, cereals, salad dresings, mayonnaise, pie filings, custards, ice creams, candies, chweing gum, sauces, potato chips, flavorings, syrups, seasoning mixes and medicines. 

Rice flour is the closest to traditional flour, however it has a tendency to be gritty and heavy as well as tasteless and is much lower in nutritional value.  To replace traditinal flour in a recipe the genral amounts are close but not quite equal for a 1 to 1 ratio - unless you find the appropriate gluten free flour mix - the prepackaged mixes will normally give you the ratio to use. For 1 cup of traditional flour, replace with the following for sucessful recipes:  1 C. Bean Flour -or- 7/8 C. Rice Flour  -or-  1 1/8 C. Soy Flour  -or-  1 C. Corn Flour.

To add additional substance to recipes as wellas texture and rise, beat the eggs or approximately 4 minutes prior to adding them to the recipe.  If you need to replace the eggs use: 2 T. Flax Seed Meal soaked in 3 T. Warm Water (let stand until set/gel)

Bread recipes can be the most daunting for gluten free bakers.  Gluten free breads do not get kneaded, they are normally the consistency of thick cake batter or soft cookie dough.  It is always wise to add an additional acid to the mix to aid the yeast, which can replace the equal portion of the liquid called for in the recipe. Additional ingredients to try: buttermilks, vinegar, yogurts, sour cream...  To add a boost to the nutritional value, add milk, fruit juice, vanilla, coffee, honey, molasses or maple syrup.  If your breads seem to be saggy in the middle, lower the amount of liquid slightly the next time you bake; if your breads fall apart easily, add a bit of liquid to the next attempt.  If you use milk instead of water, you will get a more tender crust as water adds to the crispness.

Happy & Safe Eating!


Gluten Free Eating - The Holidays!

The holidays can be a struggle for anyone who needs to eat gluten free ... there are many parties and events one attends at this time of year.  It is do-able and it can be enjoyable with minimal to no stress!

Let's begin with going to an event or party.  Most generally you will be able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that are served.  If the event/party is hosted by a friend, family member or co-worker that you feel comfortable with, ask questions! What is going to be served? Can I bring something ( a great idea to have at least one dish that is safe!)? If you know the host/hostess well, ask them to rearrange an easy recipe to be gluten free and/or add a gluten free item to the menu.  Tuck a snack into your bag, purse, briefcase, pocket or vehicle to have with you, just in case and/or to have for location when nothing is available for you during travel.  A good rule of thumb is to eat something before you leave for the event, just in case, it's much easier then to be overly hungry throughout the entire event which can cause you to be unfocused and possibly grouchy!

Is the event/party scheduled for a restaurant? See if there is a menu available on their website or take just a few moments to contact the restaurant (at a non-rush hour time) to ask questions and explain your diet. Questions to ask include: Do you offer any gluten free items?  Would you suggest something for me to order? Do you have the ability to grill/cook an item or possibly put it on foil to keep it safe for me? 

Are you hosting the event/party? Follow all the gluten free rules you already live by. Don't use ingredients that may have been contaminated; don't share utensils/serving spoons; don't place gluten containing foods directly next to gluten free (if possible); avoid foods that need to be dipped or items that need to be spead if you can.

Are you traveling out of town for the holidays to be with friends or family?  Do you have predestined location?  Can you ship your non-perishable foods in advance?  Make a box of gluten free cookies, breads, pasta or your favorite snacks and that suit your plans as well as location amenities including cooking facilities and ship them in advance. Be sure to let your host/hostess or hotel know of your shipment so they can properly set it aside for you as well as know to expect it.

Are you cooking for someone who is gluten freee and/or would like to have an item or two that is safe just in case?  Be mindful of your ingredients, for example, don't use the butter that has been out for you and your family/friends to double dip in, don't use the same toaster, don't use the same cutting board and/or utensils to stir, cut, etc., fix items that are naturally gluten free or with minimal ingredients such as candied yams/sweet potatoes (yams, brown sugar, butter); mashed potatoes (potatoes, milk, butter); veggie or fruit tray; steamed veggies, green salad (no croutons), grilled/roasted meats without marinades or gravies.

The holidays are meant to be spent with family and friends, don't let your gluten free diet get in the way of fun! Think ahead, ask questions, pack a snack and "if in doubt, go without!"  Have a great time!

Happy & Safe Eating!